Letter to the Editor from Matthew Cheng West New York Board of Education Trustee

=== NOTE: These opinions are solely my own and are not the opinions of the West New York Board of Education, its Trustees or any employees or contractors ===

My name is Matthew Cheng and I am the first Asian American to be elected to public office in West New York. My running mate, Joan Palermo, and I won a heavily contested special election on January 28, 2014 to become first publicly elected West New York Board of Education Trustees in nearly thirty years.

At my first Board meeting on Wednesday, February 12, 2014, I was asked to vote for the Vice President of the Board of Education. This position has been vacant since December 11, 2013 since Vilma Reyes, the former Vice President, succeeded former President Adrienne Sires who resigned on December 1. The Board voted for a new Vice President at the December 11 and January 15 meetings but were deadlocked. By law, since the Board was unable to decide, the matter was forwarded to the Hudson County Superintendent, Monica Tome. The nominees were asked to send their resumes.

On February 6, Allan Roth, whose title is West New York Board of Education Administrative Assistant, wrote an email to the Hudson County Superintendent, asking for the matter to be decided by the newly constituted Board. Since the last meeting, in addition to Joan Palermo and I being elected, a Board Member was appointed at the January 15 meeting to complete the expiring term of Adrienne Sires. I’m not clear on whose authority he wrote this email since the rest of Board was not told about this.

After nominations closed, I made a motion to see the resumes of the VP nominees. I argued that:

a) I was just sworn in a few minutes ago and unable to see the full agenda until then.
b) I didn’t know any of the nominees nor how they were qualified for this position.
c) I attended the past past few meetings and as a member of the public, I knew that resumes for the VP nominees were sent to the county superintendent and that I should be able to review them as well.
d) I wanted to make an informed decision in the best interest of the Town.

Moreover, in the January 15 meeting, candidates who interviewed for the position vacated by Adrienne Sires were required to submit a statement, resume and give a short speech to the Board.

To my surprise, a block of Trustees, including the Trustee who was just appointed and nominated for Vice President, voted no for allowing the other Trustees to review the VP nominees resumes. To me, this was extremely telling. Those Trustees who voted no also had nothing to say about the issue whereas the Trustees who voted in favor all said that they were interested in reviewing this information and gave their reasons why.

Secrecy is a pattern that the West New York governing body continues to perpetuate in violation of the “Citizen Service Act” P.L. 1963, c.73 (C.47:1A-1 et seq.) and P.L. 2001, c. 404 (C.47:1A-5
et al.). These laws require any persons interested in serving on a municipal authority, board or commission to file a one-page ‘Citizen Leadership Form’ with the municipal clerk. The Town of West New York’s Citizenship Leadership Form also requires a resume. There are no Citizenship Leadership Forms or resumes on file with the West New York Municipal Clerk for President Vilma Reyes appointed in 2011 or Deputy Mayor Silvio Acosta appointed in 2013. In fact, I doubt there are any Citizenship Leadership Forms for any of the Mayor’s appointees in any authority, board or commission.

Now that I’m an elected Board Member, I can demand answers to this and other matters. It is an honor to serve the people of West New York in this capacity and I would like to thank all those who ventured out in 10-19 degree weather on January 28 to vote in one of the coldest New Jersey elections on record. Thank you for letting us fight for you.

Sincerely,
Matthew Cheng
Board of Education Trustee
2014-2015
mcheng@wnyschools.net